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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Discipleship for the next generation

Written by: on June 9, 2017

What is the point of evangelism?  Is it the salvation of the person that is being reached with the good news?  When organizations send missionaries into all the parts of the world one of their goals is to evangelize those who have never heard the gospel message of the good news.   They go through cultural training and language training at least I know they do within my denominational organization.  The good news doesn’t change but each culture that it is presented in has it’s own traditions and filters that must be understood.  Culture is a very interesting thing because it can have many layers and it can complex.  The environment within a culture that people are raised within affects them as children, as teens and as adults.  Sometimes just sharing the good news and believing that the Holy Spirit brings the change is how missions work is done.  Matthew Michael in his book Christian Theology and African Traditions takes a very strong strike at the ineptitude of the Western missionary.  He is very pointed in their failure.  “Traditional theology as revealed in Western theology is often abstract, impersonal, reflective, and unable to address the human socio-political, racial, gender, and other cogent and volatile components of human society.   With such disposition in academics shibboleths and devoid of the existential factors in the human context, theological preoccupation becomes a reflection of the mirage and not the really felt needs of human society.” [1]  His focus is that there must be an African viewpoint instead of a Western outlook.

 

Another thought that he has was this: “Christian theology must seek to help these Christians to better engage the traditional African worldview by advocating a transformation of the African worldview in the light of biblical revelation.” [2]    I have argued in the margin with him with this thought, what? Christian theology does not have to go through an African filter!”  Theology or the good news for the world does not have to go through the African filter.   I can’t wrap my mind around what he is talking about.  Every location has a worldview but my thought is that the gospel can be applicable in any place.  Then he started to argue theology.  Instead of sticking with Augustine he went from theologian to theologian to build a case and an argument.  Spread throughout the information is again a shot at the “Western liberal tradition and theology.”   I can’t figure out why the antagonistic view toward missionaries who came to bring the good news to Africa.  Even the Biblical record of missionary journey’s is not spotless but come on why the view point?

 

Then the author brings up the supernatural.  God’s revelation to men independent of other men.   Signs, wonders and the supernatural to validate who God is to individuals.  This is nothing new for those within Africa.   See and believing that the local witchdoctor can tell of your past and tell you your future is a given.   That these individuals can control life especially the spiritual side of life is in their environment.   This is not within the Western mindset.   So I start to see what he is talking about.  How do you address the environment that is the tradition of those who are in Africa?   How does Christianity have real power to change this mindset? Is it through the Holy Spirit and a supernatural change?  For some yes but for others it is something that must be addressed and even taught.   At the end of one of these sections there is a this quote about Christianity:  “ For Christianity it is the framework of the religious experiences of Jesus Christ that salvation becomes available to the WORLD (emphasis mine) and ultimately it is based on this same revelation in Jesus Christ that all human experiences or revelations are duly interpreted, evaluated and judged.” [3]That is exactly what I have been arguing.  It is for the world not just the African world, or the Cherokee Indian world, or the Irish world….it is for the world.   Not even the American world, but the world.    But what I have gathered up to this point is that there must be something that I am missing.   What is it that I haven’t yet grabbed ahold of?

 

The point.

 

“African people are always vulnerable to a show or manifestation of spiritual powers, and it is a commonly accepted view that the medicine man or witchdoctor has supernatural powers to harm or to make well.  This belief normally serves as motivation for troubling African “Christians” who want a quick supernatural intervention to their human problems.” 44   Wait, so that is what he is arguing.  The African Christian has been introduced to the good news but there has not be a conversation about the difference between the Holy Spirit’s power and the power they have grown up with.   The failure to talk about this and to teach about this is the issue. “ This reason comes from failure of church’s discipleship program to address these issues during discipleship.  Often the African churches lack discipleship programs and thus the converts are left on their own.  Such converts never reach spiritual maturity in their Christian life because they lack vital knowledge of the BIBLICAL worldview.  Consequently, even though they are Christians in name, their worldview is not Christian, but the inherited African pre-Christian worldview.  The evangelistic outreaches in Africa often focus on the numerical figure of people turning to Christ, but they spend little time in discipling these converts to accept the “biblical worldview.”  The need in the African church is the need for a “Biblical worldview!!”

 

Discipleship.
Discipleship for the next generation must meet the generation at their point of environment and worldview.  If there is an assumed stereotypical world view that is applied instead of the actual world view there becomes a gap.   That gap leads to people being left with out supernatural power and can even lead to a dualistic life.   Believing more in the witchdoctor than the answer.   Jesus’ time is not the same as the worlds time.   Being taught this simple truth bring a decision to live for Christ to a crossroads.   Is it how your environment operates or are you going to believe in a God who you trust and have to patient in waiting to hear from him and to know him?   Now I get what he is talking about.

It is not simply about the numbers but about the discipleship.   That is what leads to life change and freedom.   Someone to explain to you what God does and how he works.   How God loves and how we trust him completely even when we don’t understand.  It is not for sale and it is not for convenience.  So as I concluded my time with this author, it once again lets me know that there is a disconnect between salvation and someone coming alongside to disciple others.   There is a tremendous need for this but who is going to teach this?   Who is going to see this as their mission?  How is it possible to train others to do and teach these most basic thing?

 

I believe it is a world issue.  One that can be addressed but not on accident and not with a tally sheet in hand.   Discipleship for the next generation is a pressing need that must be addressed.

[1] Matthew Micheal,  Christian Theology and African Traditions, (Eugene, OR: Resource publications, 2013), 24.

[2] Ibid., 13.

[3] Ibid., 39.

About the Author

mm

Kevin Norwood

My name is Kevin Norwood and I have been in youth ministry for the past 28 years. On February 14th, 1994, 23 years ago, we moved to Owasso OK and wow what a ride. My wife, Ann, is an RN and specializes in Clinical Documentation working from home. Maci is a my 17 year old daughter and she loves and shows horses. Her horse's name is Charlie. She is a straight A student and is excelling in her work. She just got her drivers license!! London is my 6 year old son and he keeps me young. He absolutely loves life!! Off roading in Sedona Arizona is one of his latest adventure. I have started a coaching business for pastors at www.kevinnorwood.com and it is exciting the doors that God is opening.

4 responses to “Discipleship for the next generation”

  1. mm Marc Andresen says:

    Kevin,

    I appreciate the honest wrestling with the text that you have shown us in this blog.

    You mentioned the Cherokee Indian world. Assuming/guessing that you have encountered Native American presence and influence in Oklahoma, what points of worldview might you have identified that need to be affected or changed by a Biblical worldview? Have you encountered issues of worldview that run contrary to a Christian worldview that need correction?

    • Kevin says:

      Marc,
      The spiritual side of it has to do with religious activity and proper dialogue within the Cherokee Nation. It is not just part of Oklahoma instead it is separate within Oklahoma. There is no thought of integration instead separation is the current way of survival. It is quite interesting how at the heart of the Cherokee nation our denominational churches are not attraction for them. It is seen as the white man’s church. Interesting dynamics.
      K

  2. mm Phil Goldsberry says:

    Kevin:
    You point out the antithesis of Michael’s view in a well constructed and balanced view. It is interesting how any of us can find a “soap box” and then begin to justify, even if stretching, to make your point solid.

    I am not sure why the African Christianity is and has been treated unfairly. At the same time, I am not sure what the balance point is.

  3. Phil,

    I think the balance point is where discipleship takes on the real issues within the environment. Environmental issues are different than spiritual issues unless you are from Africa. That is what I am reading within this text. Not sure if that is the case but that is the point of view that I have ascertained. The world needs hope and the world needs Jesus and he is the one who bring salvation to all…. No asterisks within his message as far as I can tell.

    Kevin

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